Braised Chicken with Rice and Spinach
AND THE WINNER OF THE COOKBOOK IS….. SUSAN WOODRUFF!!! Susan, if you could please email your address to me, I will forward it to Elizabeth Songster and she will, in turn, send you the autographed copy of this book. Congratulations!!!
This post is going to highlight three items: One, I cannot for the life of me follow a recipe to the letter. Two, recipes that may be tinkered with and easily adapted are often my favorites. Three, the cookbook, A Greek Journey With Fork and Pen, by Georgia Cone and Elizabeth Songster offers many of these flexible recipes along with a delightful story of two sisters, their travels, and their Greek Heritage.
This story began when Elizabeth, looking to promote her new book, kindly mailed me a signed copy. When she first contacted me, I said that I would be happy to cook something from her book so I could truly review it. Elizabeth and her sister’s recipes are sprinkled in between stories of their travels and adventures with their husbands making this an endearing memoir as much as a cookbook.
In terms of the recipes, what caught my attention right away was the frequency of uncomplicated, one-dish meals that looked wholesome and flavorful. As I paged through the various recipes, ranging from Shrimp and Feta, Chicken in Wine, and Greek Honey Cake, I immediately marked eight entree recipes that not only looked delicious, but appeared to be versatile, easily-prepared meals — perfect for busy weekdays.
The recipe which called my name the loudest was Braised Rooster with Noodles. I mean, The Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s logo is a rooster! Now, I return to my first comment about not being able to follow a recipe. Although the recipe, as written, looked absolutely fabulous, I tinkered a bit as I tend to do. Instead of using a whole chicken, cut up, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs and I tweaked the flavorings a bit. As I was about to add the pasta called for in the original recipe, I thought about how my husband adores chicken and rice. He was actually home for dinner — not traveling for work as he is most weekdays — so, in his honor, I swapped the pasta for brown rice. When it occurred to me that I had a bag of fresh, curly spinach from our farmers market that needed to be used, I added that at the end. Now I didn’t have to make a salad! We truly had an all-in-one meal!
The feedback? Glowing! One son asked a friend to join us for dinner. Turned out he doesn’t like tomatoes but he liked this meal! My younger son, who tends to only like the chunky parts of soup over the broth declared this broth, and I quote, “Amazing!” I loved the flavors, the ease of preparation, and the way I could adapt the recipe so easily based on what I had on hand and what we were in the mood for. That said, there would be nothing wrong with cooking the recipe as written. I am quite sure it would be equally delicious.
One final note: Due to my schedule, I prepared this recipe mid afternoon and allowed it to sit for an hour or two before reheating gently and serving. I like how the dish thickened to something like a stew–yet with just the right amount of soupiness. The extra time also allowed the flavors to meld and develop a bit more. So, if time allows, feel free to prepare in advance, even undercooking the rice just a little so that is does not become mushy upon reheating. As you can imagine, leftovers were equally delicious…and my new broth lover requested them.
To view the recipe which inspired this tasty one-pot meal, or to learn more about the book and perhaps purchase your own copy, click here. And a special thank you to Elizabeth and Georgia for sharing their stories, their love of food, and their delicious Greek-inspired recipes in a truly delightful book to which I will certainly return.
NOTE: Elizabeth and Georgia, authors of the cookbook pictured below, have graciously offered to give away a signed copy of their book. To enter, simply leave a comment below. The winning name will be chosen at random on Sunday, February 24, 2013. Once announced, the winner will have 48 hours to forward a mailing address to me. If there is no response, another winner will then be chosen. Good luck!
Although this recipe requires a slow braise, it is largely a hands-off meal. The slow cooking will reward you with exceptional flavor in this wholesome, one-pot dinner.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh, minced)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup (5 ounces) brown rice (see notes)
- 5 ounces (about 4 cups, lightly packed) curly spinach, roughly chopped (could use other dark, leafy green of choice)
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Parmesan or Manchego cheese, for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and brown a bit on the edges.
- Add the chicken, and cook for about 5 minutes, browning on both sides.
- Add the tomatoes with their juice, the water, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. (I adjusted over the course of cooking and found a total of 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and a scant half teaspoon of fresh pepper to be perfect for our tastes.)
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
- At this point, I removed the chicken to a plate and half shredded, half cut it into bite-size pieces, and then returned to the pot.
- Finally add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then add the brown rice. Cover and continue cooking over low heat (you want the mixture to be at a very gentle simmer) for another 45-50 minutes or until the rice is cooked but is not mushy. (Check early a time or two as the rice will continue to cook in the hot broth for a few more minutes after being removed from the heat.)
- Stir in the chopped spinach, the balsamic vinegar, and check for seasoning.
- Serve with a sprinkling of cheese, if desired.
Using 3/4 cup of rice will yield a finished product that is like a thick soup after the mixture sits for a few minutes. If you would prefer to use white rice, you will only need to simmer for 20 minutes or so. If you use pasta, as was done in the original recipe, you may only need to simmer 10-15 minutes, depending on the type of pasta being used.
This one-pot meal is also included in Food Done Light’s Thursday’s Treasures recipe collection.